EDITORIAL: It will take more than signatures to save African air transport

The original East African Community (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) began on a very successful note; it had one single currency inherited from the former colonial master, one airline, train service as well as free movement.

The education sector was also linked with faculties spread across all the three national universities. In fact, it was a dream coalition that served the people in the region equitably. EAC’s strength was in its unity.

When the divorce was consummated in 1977, everything went downhill, the first casualty being East African Airways that had been in existence since 1946. Each country created their own airlines which soon folded, save for Kenya Airways which, by the way, has KLM to thank for surviving.

Currently, the EAC aviation flag is being flown by Kenya Airways and RwandAir. Tanzania and Uganda are trying to get back on their feet while Burundi and South Sudan do not even have a scrapyard to talk about.

At the ongoing Africa Aviation Summit taking place in Kigali, experts said that the continued fragmentation of African airlines was the undoing of the aviation sector as was shown in the case of East African Airways.

Africa’s only hope is opening the skies, but some countries will need some convincing. Most of those still holding out are driven by deep suspicion that they will end up losing as they are not ready to take on more experienced players.

With just half of the African countries having appended their signatures on the Single African Air Transport Market, therein lies the elephant in the room. We still have a long way to go.